3 of 4
3
“driver’s licenses” or “drivers’ licenses”? 
Posted: 20 March 2007 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  710
Joined  2007-02-07

“Womens” and “Mens” with no apostrophe is incoherent.

I think you’re confusing names with grammar. Names can be anything. There’s a difference between using “women’s department” in a sentence and hanging a sign or creating a link with the name “Womens” or even the name “Womens Department” on it. I’m not the least bit confused or offended by it. Grammar is the servant of communication; not the master. If I feel it isn’t serving me well, I don’t hesitate to throw it in the street. Just my two cents, and probably overpriced at that.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2007 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  21
Joined  2007-03-19

Not supercilious, languagehat...just moderatelysillious. ;-)

~Valerie

 Signature 

_________________________

http://www.kyriosity.com
_________________________

The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2007 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  21
Joined  2007-03-19
happydog - 20 March 2007 05:24 PM

Grammar is the servant of communication; not the master.

Yes, but good servants follow rules. The more consistently we abide by those rules, the better we will be able to communicate with one another. If you ahve the rules you like, and I have the rules I like, but they’re not the same rules, how effective is our communication? Of course in this isolated instance, we all know what is meant, but in the broader scope of usage, grammatical guidelines and boundaries are not only our servants, but our friends.

~Valerie

 Signature 

_________________________

http://www.kyriosity.com
_________________________

The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2007 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  710
Joined  2007-02-07

...how effective is our communication?

Exactly my point. The measure of the communication is the effectiveness, not how well it follows rules. Names are poetry, not prose. I once worked with a woman named Iris. I never once mistook her for a plant.

Presciptivism has it’s place. A sign at Sears isn’t one of them, as far as I am concerned. YMMV.

[ Edited: 20 March 2007 09:02 PM by happydog ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 March 2007 10:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1373
Joined  2007-01-29

“Men’s hats” are sold (and worn) individually, not communally, but it would be neither idiomatic nor logical to call them “man’s hats”.

Also the phrase given was “driver** licences” - plural - which implies, since most people hold only one driving licence, that we are speaking about more than one driver.  “Driving licence” or “driver’s licence” (a generality) avoids the problem.

(From another editor and publisher).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 March 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-13

It seems to me that those who insist on “drivers’ licenses” are trying to apply a rule of number agreement, treating “driver’s/drivers’” like a Latin genitive.  Yes, there are occasional oddities such as “men’s hats”, but I think it would be difficult to construct a good argument that English generally does this.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 March 2007 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2863
Joined  2007-01-31

That’s such a strange notion that it almost seems like a deliberate caricature.  I, and I think most people who would use “drivers’”, do so because we see the term as referring to more than one driver. Likewise I would write “students’ grades” when talking about more than one student. Do you find that odd, too?

[ Edited: 21 March 2007 07:31 AM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 March 2007 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4812
Joined  2007-01-03

A difference being that student’s or students’ does not indicate the type of grade, only who the grades belong to. This is in contrast to driver’s which distinguishes the type of license from dog, fishing, hunting, etc as well as indicating (in many contexts) the owner.

It seems that the usual convention for driver’s licenses (and master’s degrees) is to use the singular possessive and the plural noun. I would not, however, go so far as to say drivers’ licenses is an error. It’s a widely accepted style, just not the most popular way of expressing the idea.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 March 2007 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2863
Joined  2007-01-31

Yes, Google doesn’t distinguish them but cursory examination of what comes up seems to show that “drivers licenses” is most common with “driver’s licenses” and “drivers’ licenses” roughly tied; the latter may be slightly behind the former but it’s clearly not limited to a few pedantic cranks.

Regarding your comments about kind of license vs. owner of license, I did a search on “teachers certificates” (again, Google doesn’t seem to care about whether or where you put the apostrophe.)

FWIW, the overwhelming preference for the plural form (based on what shows up in the returned excerpts of text for the first 40 hits) is “teachers’ certificates” with “teachers certificates” trailing a distant second.  I didn’t see any examples of “teacher’s certificates” although I’m sure some could be found if one searched long enough. [Edit: likewise for “pilots’ licenses”: mostly thus, sometimes no apostrophe, but no “pilot’s licenses” in the first 50 hits]

Like you, if I’m reading you right, I see this as a style-guide kind of issue: reasonable arguments can be made for either form, though IMHO the double plural seems to be the most natural.  I don’t think it’s justifiable to imply that people who prefer the double plural are indulging in obsessive logic-chopping; neither is it at all clear that popular usage is solidly against them.

[ Edited: 21 March 2007 07:30 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 March 2007 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1373
Joined  2007-01-29

Ten drivers’ licences hanging on the wall,
Ten drivers’ licences hanging on the wall,
And if one of those drivers should accidentally fall,
He’d get lifts from the drivers with licences on the wall.

Nine drivers’ licences hanging on the wall ...

One driver’s licences hanging on the wall:
Motorcycle, lorry, car, taxicab and all,
And if that poor driver should accidentally fall,
He’d need none of those licences hanging on the wall.

Edit:  I do apologise.  It’s not often that a topic here inspires me to break into song.  It won’t happen again.

[ Edited: 21 March 2007 01:54 PM by ElizaD ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2007 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22

The problem to my (British) mind of using the expression “driver’s license” or one of its plural forms, is that, grammatically, it onle relates to a licence (or licences) belong to, or pertaining to, a driver (or drivers).  It doesn’t definitely state that the licence is a licence to drive, only that it belongs to a driver.  It could be a dog licence (not that we have those any more).
If, OTOH, you say that that doesn’t matter and everyone knows what you mean by “driver’s license”, then I suppose it doesn’t matter how you form the plural, either.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2007 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-13
Dr. Techie - 21 March 2007 07:20 AM

That’s such a strange notion that it almost seems like a deliberate caricature.  I, and I think most people who would use “drivers’”, do so because we see the term as referring to more than one driver. Likewise I would write “students’ grades” when talking about more than one student. Do you find that odd, too?

But do you insist on it for others?  That is, do you consider “driver’s licenses” to be an error? There are various subtle arguments that can be made for either construction, and it seems to me perfectly reasonable to consider it a matter of personal style.  But if one were to insist that “drivers’ licenses” is right and “driver’s licenses” wrongety-wrong-wrong, without regard to the various subtle arguments, then characterizing this as number agreement is a perfectly straightforward description of the rule.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2007 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1373
Joined  2007-01-29

It’s misleading.  Drivers’ licences refers to more than one driver, each of whom has one or more licences.  Driver’s licences refers to one driver, who has several (driving) licences - as my bit of doggerel shows, in the UK that could be a licence to drive a bus and a car and a motorbike and a tram and a taxi.  One driver:  many licences. 

How you manage to squeeze a Latin genitive into that, goodness alone knows.

[ Edited: 22 March 2007 06:34 AM by ElizaD ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2007 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4812
Joined  2007-01-03

It could be a dog licence (not that we have those any more).

Still have them in Leftpondia. They’re an important rabies-control mechanism.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 March 2007 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2863
Joined  2007-01-31

But do you insist on it for others?  That is, do you consider “driver’s licenses” to be an error?

As I’ve already indicated, no.  But I do think that “driver’s licenses” is more often due to simple carelessness rather than a considered decision to consider “driver’s license” as a fixed phrase or a single lexical unit.  There’s nothing particularly unusual about the double plural, as the prevalence of “men’s hats” (and almost any other sort of clothing, for either sex: e.g. “women’s shoes"), “teachers’ certificates”, and “pilots’ licenses” shows.  Rather, I would say that it is “driver’s licenses” that is the exception to the normal behavior of English.

Perhaps I misinterpreted your “insist on”.  I don’t insist that everyone has to write “drivers’ licenses”.  I do insist on writing that way myself, and feel that I should be free to do so without being accused of strained logic or of forcing English to follow an unnatural hypercorrect pattern.

Profile
 
 
   
3 of 4
3